We’re all about showcasing some of the incredible women out there and this month we thought it was timely to profile Rebecca Boardman. Rebecca is a Senior Test Analyst at Reading Room and has been volunteering with us as a STEM ambassador, helping our Girl Geek Academy to run smoothly each week. In January 2018 she will be leading our gaming academy at FACT. She’s a brilliant role model and mentor for the young women we work with and this is herstory…

Tell us a bit about yourself.

Hello! I’m a Senior Test Analyst at Reading Room in Liverpool City Centre. I love testing – it’s like playing detective to find out the cause of problems on websites. Basically, I get to break websites all day!

My hobbies include photography and photo manipulation, drawing, going to the gym and for a swim and (of course) some PlayStation. My favourite hobby is watching Liverpool play football. I go to the match whenever I can get a ticket and when I can’t, I’m glued to the TV watching at home.

I grew up in Warrington and moved to Liverpool in 2009 for university. I liked it so much I decided to stay here!

Rebecca Boardman

How did you get into the tech sector?

Ever since I was young, I’ve loved computers. Growing up, my dad was a programmer so we were fortunate enough to have a computer in the house. When my dad got a new machine, me and my older sister got the old machine to play on. It was the usual MS Paint and Solitaire (which to be honest, I didn’t understand the rules of at the time!) as well as typing out my Christmas list to Father Christmas.

I enjoyed IT at school, and went on to study IT and Computing at A Level. In 2012, I got my Bachelor’s degree in Computing from Liverpool Hope University. My first taste of programming was at A level when I learned Visual Basic 6. At university, we covered so many different tech topics, from programming to 3D modelling, and gaming to robotics.

As for testing – I got into it by accident! When I was a student I wanted a job so that I had some spending money and there was a role available as a games tester with PlayStation. I initially wanted the job for the spare cash, but I ended up absolutely loving it. It really opened my eyes to another part of the tech sector which I just hadn’t given a second thought to before. 

What does an average day look like for you?

My average day starts with a short commute into the office whilst belting out the words to my favourite songs in the car to liven me up. Once in the office, I have a short update with my team and we discuss which projects we’ll be working on for the day. I attend a number of daily ‘stand-ups’ which are meetings where each person says what they worked on yesterday, what they’re going to work on today and whether there are any issues blocking them from completing their tasks. There are stand-ups for different projects and some technologies have stand-ups for a wider group of people (for example, all of our .NET developers have a daily stand-up).

After the meetings it’s down to business. I do a mixture of checking tickets, which might be bugs which have been fixed, or checking that developer tasks have been implemented correctly. I collaborate a lot with the developers to ask them questions about things I’m not too sure about and together we work out solutions to problems on the websites. When I find an issue on a website, I write a ticket on our ticket tracking system which details what the problem is, what is causing it and whether it is a problem for mobile or desktop devices. This means I have to do some investigative work and check the websites on different phones and tablets so that I can give as much information to the developers as possible.

After work I like to go to the gym or for a swim to work the day out of my system, then get snuggled in my pyjamas with the TV on!

Rebecca Boardman working at her desk

Have you faced any challenges being a woman in tech?

I haven’t faced any problems due to being a woman in my professional career, but during my time at college there was one male student who repeatedly told me that women can’t program. He didn’t seem to have a logical answer as to why this was other than ‘they just can’t’. He actually approached me several years later to apologise for saying this to me, so I hope he realised that gender doesn’t define what we can and can’t do. If anything, the whole situation made me more determined to succeed in the tech world.

What has been your biggest challenge and greatest achievement?

My biggest challenge was probably completing a full time university degree whilst working a full time job in the evenings as a games tester. It meant I had some long days but the experience at PlayStation is what inspired me to get into testing. The fact that I was testing games was great in itself, but the actual detective work that comes with testing was really exciting to me and this is what spurred me on through those long days and nights!

My greatest achievement was probably the recent work Reading Room have done with Swansea City FC, Stoke City FC and Middlesbrough FC. We built each club’s new website and we had very specific deadlines to meet as their old websites were getting deactivated on a specific date. There was a lot of teamwork and collaboration on these projects and everyone supported each other. I really enjoyed the nature of testing these websites, especially around the Match Centre, which is a site feature the clubs use on match days to show a minute-by-minute commentary feed. 

What advice would you give women and girls wanting to get into tech, and into the testing sector in particular?

Just give it a try! You never know what path you may end up down. I ended up working evenings as a games tester because it was close to my home and I wanted some spending money – but it actually changed my life in terms of my career goals.

Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something because you’re female – your gender has no impact on your ability to code, test or design.

Testing for me is something that I can’t switch off. I find bugs on all kinds of websites and games. Where possible I send a bug report to the website via their contact form. It’s good practice if you want to get into testing.

The best thing to do to get started is look for work experience or offer to assist students and small companies with some free testing on their websites. If you’re unable to get these opportunities straight away, the best way to develop skills is to look for skills employers want and try to enhance these. These skills might be keen attention to detail (like spot the difference) as well as being able to list steps you’ve taken to create a bug and write it into a report which anyone can understand.

Rebecca Boardman

Any final thoughts?

The tech industry is a wonderful place to work, especially as it’s evolving so fast these days.

Don’t be afraid to try something different – that’s the whole reason I got into testing! There’s a huge network of support out there in the online world, and there’s nothing you can’t teach yourself if you work at it.

Follow Rebecca on Twitter at @Grish616. You can find out more about Reading Room on their website.

Written by Rose Cairns.